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How We’re Dealing with Our Anxiety Right Now

Blair Imani, Emily Oster, Alysia Reiner and more share their tips on staying calm in uncertain times.

By Madeleine Kim

I’m just going to state the obvious: Anxiety is high right now. We are rounding the corner on 2020—what has to be the hardest and most bizarre year in recent memory—and we still have to get through the election and the holidays, all while wearing masks. Uncertainty abounds, and that’s left many of us (myself included) feeling like we’re walking on a tightrope, just trying to make it to the end of the year without falling. 

But we still have 2.5 months to go (and let’s be honest, it’s not like all our problems are going to be fixed January 1st, 2021), so we better pace ourselves and find relief for our anxieties where we can. 

Here’s how five Women of the Week are managing their own anxiety right now.

Prioritizing Sleep and Exercise

People always say that exercising and getting more sleep are two surefire ways to stave off anxiety. And while the last thing an anxious person wants on her plate is another thing to do, unfortunately those people are right. As Emily Oster, author of the bestselling books Expecting Better and Crib Sheet points out, you can track how you’re feeling based on your sleep, and you can feel better by moving your body. “I generally know my anxiety is high based on my sleep,” says Emily. “When I’m up at 4am and cannot go back to sleep, or when I wake up to my alarm and more or less just feel panic, I can’t be alone. My best friend told me the same thing the other day: ‘I can’t sleep; is it because we’re 40 now?’ I doubt it. For me, the main release is exercise. I run every morning, usually before the rest of the family is awake. I run hard enough, usually, that I cannot think about other things. It’s as close as I get to meditation.”

Dr. Lisa Sanders, the force behind the New York Times series “Diagnosis” and the hit Netflix show of the same name, agrees. “For the next two weeks, I think it’s essential to keep exercising, keep breathing, and as John Irving once exhorted residents of the Hotel New Hampshire (and which the band Queen repurposed a few decades later), ‘just keep passing those open windows.’”

Focusing on the Wins

It’s overwhelming to think about everything that didn’t go as planned this year, but there were also so many things that changed for the better. Activist, author, and historian Blair Imani is trying to keep a positive attitude, which often means looking at the bigger picture. “Holding my belief in the power of the people means knowing that we will survive no matter the outcome [of the election],” says Blair. “Let’s be clear: If the election doesn’t go the way we want, that survival will be much more of a struggle. But change doesn’t begin and end with elections, even though it certainly can happen there. Be reassured by the fact that more people have been civically activated than ever before. Let’s consider all of these new voters some sort of victory.”

Creating Art

I remember reading an article at the beginning of the pandemic that said we should all be keeping journals. It would be understandable if you’d want to forget this year, but at the same time, there were moments of grace, or at the very least, lessons we learned that cannot be forgotten. But a journal isn’t the only way to process and memorialize. Actress and activist Alysia Reiner is channeling her anxiety over the past year and the upcoming election into music and poetry. She’s part of the Resistance Revival Chorus, a group that just released its first album, This Joy

She also wrote this poem:

Make joyful things daily.
Chip away everything else.
Take action today.

Giving Yourself a Break

Okay, here’s the truth: the best way to curb anxiety, especially the kind that smacks you in the middle of the day and feels like a 100 lb. weight on your chest, is to take a minute and breathe. We’ve all been through a lot, and pushing ourselves to do more over the next couple of months might not be what our bodies, brains, or souls actually need. As Dr. Uché Blackstock points out, rest is a fine way to wrap up the year, too. “This year has been an unprecedented one for me, not only because of the pandemic,” says Uché. “I’ve simultaneously experienced significant personal and professional transitions that have brought me both freedom and anxiety. I’ve been intentional about extending myself grace and forgiveness in this moment by carving out boundaries in my work and being committed to prioritizing time for relaxation and creativity.”

Caitlin Abber

Written By

Caitlin Abber

Caitlin Abber is the Brand Editor at M.M. LaFleur, and an award-winning writer and content creator. Over the last decade she has held senior editorial positions at MTV, Women's Health, Public Radio International, and Bustle, and has bylines at InStyle and OprahMag.com.

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